Thursday, October 20, 2011

Putting the mustang to work!

It's hard to believe, I know, but I actually do make Sage work sometimes. I have been trying to ride often in my few weeks at home, and it has worked out fairly well. We've been doing lots of trotting! Long straight line trotting, circles, roll backs. She feels quite good! Almost too good, perhaps...

So I decided to challenge her. That is, lunge on a crisp fall day out in the big pasture. You would think that wouldn't be too hard, but when Sage gets spicy and decides to try to buck, bolt, and run away, she knows just how to throw her head and shoulder so I can't stop her (physically, at least). So I have to teach her to do the right thing, and the only way to do that is to challenge her focus, have her try to run away, and successfully stop her. Look at how cute she is when she applies herself:

It's really hard to take pictures while lunging; suffice to say that she was not this cute the entire time. We had two run outs, to where I had to let go completely and go catch her again with the lunge line trailing. But by the end, I felt like she was responding much better. I stopped a few run outs and got her listening, stopping and turning a lot. I didn't want to chew up the ground, so once we got some calm circles (which, by the way, often come in between big explosions), we moved inside. I think she did kind of get the point that bucking and rearing is bad. I am not afraid to get on her in the arena as I know she feels like she has nowhere to go, so she won't take off. We rode inside for a little bit and called it good. Just had to take a picture to prove it, but she did get sweaty!

She wanted to make a point about how tortured she is:

Which, I guess she kind of was, because I once again attempted to put bell boots on her. There is something about them she really dislikes--most especially the velcro noise, but it's not just that. It's the combination of the velcro noise and something trying to eat her leg. Except that she's dead calm when you wrap ropes around her feet, and she's much better with polo wraps, so I'm not sure what the deal is. I figured that like everything with her, it would get easier each time I tried.

However, I was wrong. It took me an hour to get them on, and one I could only get on her cannon. So I left them on, figuring at some point she would have to be fine with them. Which she was, except until I tried to take them off, which was another half hour ordeal. The thing I can say is that she is much better about the velcro noise now, but this whole concept really gets her in a tizzy. So much so that she was willing to go for a walk with me in the pasture (in the wind, which usually gets her going) and just walk quietly after I took them off.

You might be wondering what the point of all this is, and so here it is: I want to be able to trail ride this horse. No, she will never probably wear bell boots ever. But there is no reason to put shoes on her, and although her feet are excellent, I will not ride her on sharp gravel without some sort of protection. I'd like her to be able to wear hoof boots, which basically grasp the pastern in a similar fashion as bell boots. But if she's going to come undone about it, this may not be reasonable. We'll just have to keep working, and I'm making a note to expose Chinook to things like this early.

The little man himself has been doing reasonably well. He is now 12.2 hands and weighs 500 lbs. I trimmed his feet for the second time yesterday, and he was great with a bit of hay in front of him. He can be pretty squiggly otherwise!

He's learning to not be so pushy about his food, and he's learning to trot up in hand (always a useful skill). He's also wearing a sweatshirt for a saddle and he could care less. I've started feeding him Purina's Ultium Growth feed along with his alfalfa pellets, and at first he was a bit of a pain, spitting it out for the first few days. Not okay at $27.99 a bag!! But he has learned to like it, and he has also finally learned to eat apples all on his own.

Tonight was the first time he was ever really bad. I took him for a walk out in the pasture and he did the buck and bolt trick of his mom...except, he tries to run through you because he figures that's the best way out (instead of running away). He's fairly block-headed and does not respond to sharp tugs on the halter. Or at least, he didn't until tonight. He got in big trouble, and then he went on another walk and was a very good boy. We are constantly working on the back up cue because he's just so pushy. Now it's a matter of backing up quickly, because he's often not very responsive and does things like try to walk on top of you.

He is, however, a very sweet little boy and he loves hugs and kisses. He is going to grow up to be a nice gelding!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Happy fall!

Lots of news from here! Fall has fallen and the horses are spending a lot of time in the barn (by choice, of course...they can go outside whenever they want, but who would want to when it's raining sideways?). The girls helped us harvest the 135 pumpkins that we grew in the manure pile this summer! Sage was not really convinced that pumpkins are all that cool, but Brandy on the other hand...

Chinook is back out with his mom and Brandy, but now he's a big boy. No more nursing, just time to get some schooling from the mares. He's been a good boy overall. Although he gets pushy when I am away (and I was away for the last week working in Bend), he is capable of learning how to not be pushy again.

He leads like a champ, is much better about his feet, and has a generally chill attitude about everything. He'll stand tied for over an hour! He does haunch turns, forehand turns, and backs up. He, like his mom, is hard to get moving but he'll trot if you really get him going. Today he wore a stirrup leather around his girth, very similar to the setup I first started Sage in, and he didn't have a care in the world. He also wears sweatshirts and saddle blankets over his back with no issues at all. I lay over his back and scratch his belly, and he doesn't even flinch. I am still hoping to hold out until January on gelding him, and so far so good on that front!

Although my time has been very short, I had a little bit of time off this afternoon and set to work on Sage. The only thing we've really done since the last post is go for a walk up the road/field, where she was good but had a few spooky/bucking moments. I had asked my farrier if he would ride her the next time he came out, because I hadn't been getting anywhere and wanted to see her respond to someone else. Of course, I have mixed feelings about this. Part of me thinks there is no problem with where we are at, and the other part tells me she needs something more.

So today I vowed that I would try my hardest to get her trotting no matter the consequences. I am fully capable of riding her even if she bucks, which is just what I had to tell myself. So I got on and I kicked her forward, clucked to her, told her to trot. At first, she did what she typically does: bunches up, slows down, lifts her head, acts like she's thinking about doing something bad. But I kept kicking, and encouraging, and FINALLY she took a few steps of trot. After a few more tries, all I had to do was lay my leg against her side and cluck and off we went! She was so ridiculously floaty, so balanced for a young horse. I felt like I was riding a broke horse. It was like once she figured it out, it was no big deal. We might have done a few circles of the arena total, but I'm sure she knew I was thrilled with her. I can't wait to get out there again and do some more trotting! I was in Bend last week, I happened to catch the beginning of the BendFilm Festival. Amazingly, they were showing "Wild Horse, Wild Ride" (, and I was able to get a ticket. If you haven't already heard me babble on about this movie, I have wanted to see it for months! It follows several trainers in the Extreme Mustang Makeover and has several scenes showing how amazing mustangs are. The filmmaker was also present and answered several questions about the movie. It was fabulous! So, if you get a chance to see it, definitely do!

My schedule is very busy for the next month: traveling to St. Louis and then back to Calgary, giving my senior paper presentation on the unwanted horse, and taking the national veterinary board exam. So, posts may be slow, but I swear we're still all alive and well. :)